Recent word that Atiya Abdul Rahman, al-Qaeda’s operations chief, was killed by a drone strike in Pakistan adds to the impression we have little to fear from the remnants of what was once seen as the world’s most dangerous terrorist group. And indeed, it may be the case we have a good less to fear–at least for the time being–from al-Qaeda Central. But, as I have been arguing for some time, that does not mean we have nothing to fear from jihadist terrorists. They remain active around the world and have been making dangerous gains in such countries as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The turmoil of the Arab Spring may provide further openings for them, as Joshua Muravchik warns in a perceptive article in the new COMMENTARY. The U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq provides yet more opportunities they can take advantage of.
Further confirmation of how far-flung the threat is comes from Nigeria where yet another al-Qaeda affiliate known as Boko Haram claimed credit for a suicide bombing at the UN compound which killed 23 people. There are reports Boko Haram personnel have been trained by al-Qaeda.
But groups like Boko Haram, or al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or al- Qaeda in Iraq, have also shown a disturbing ability to operate on their own. While they are happy to receive assistance from al-Qaeda Central, they are also developing their own fundraising and attack networks that allow them to operate autonomously.
Ten years after 9/11, we can certainly take pride in the accomplishments of America’s armed forces, intelligence services, and law enforcement agencies, which, together, have kept us safe at home. But this is no time for complacency.